Subaru Ascent climbs into crowded field

2019 Subaru Ascent

That crowded SUV field I’m always talking about just got another player. Meet the Subaru Ascent, the company’s latest attempt at a seven seat vehicle.

Subaru has done this before, you ask? Yep. That was the Tribeca, a kinda odd but competent vehicle that was kinda midsized. Subaru produced it for eight years but didn’t sell a lot because of the price and the looks. Let’s just say the  Tribeca went way past the iconic Subaru quirkiness. 

The Ascent is obviously aimed at people who like a more conventional look. It’s the largest vehicle Subaru has ever produced. Heck, it’s bigger than the Volkswagen Atlas, a vehicle that I like a great deal. The Ascent is so conventional looking I mistook it several times with the plethora of Toyota, Chevy and Ford vehicles parked in a mall parking lot.

That says a lot. It means Subaru got the overall look right. It may not standout in a crowd, but you will also not point and say, “My god, what’s that!” It’s actually a handsome vehicle.

The interior is quite tasteful. There are lots of padded surfaces, metal and leather that help make this a very inviting space. I did like the big touch screen which was easy to use.

The Ascent has lots of room with both rows down.

The front seats are comfortable and provide padding in the proper places. Both are multi-power adjustable. The second row is as comfortable as you would expect. The surprise is the third row which actually has enough leg and headroom  for -wait for it – adult passengers. Yes, Subaru got it right, as with cargo space with the seats up. It’s cavernous without the second row. What’s my favorite interior feature? How about 19 cupholders – yes 19 cupholders. The most this vehicle can hold is eight people when equipped with second and third row bench seats. I doubt that dehydration would ever be a factor while riding in this.

The engine is somewhat familiar. The 2.5 boxer engine has been turbo charged to deliver 265 horsepower with 277 pounds-feet of torque. Most vehicles in the segment use a V6 and have more horses. Despite the apparent horsepower handicap, Subaru says the Ascent can tow 5,000 pounds, which is impressive.

The engine is coupled with a continuously variable transmission which makes things feel kind of sluggish at times. There is also the weight penalty of the standard all-wheel-drive system which is standard on all Subarus.

Despite these negatives I found the Ascent to be very competent. Yes, It did feel a little sluggish when accelerating, but when at speed the vehicle felt strong and capable. The CVT gave a good impression of changing gears, even downshift. The ride was good and handling felt about average with the segment.

What sold me on the Ascent was my first time behind the wheel. A violent rainstorm came up with wind-whipped waves of rain. Visibility was about 30 present. I found a clear lane, reduced speed, selected X-mode (which optimizes the all wheel drive for slippery surfaces) and let the all wheel drive do its thing. It did. I felt safe and secure in big vehicle as it tracked straight and true in all that water. Yep, Subaru got this right as well.

My test vehicle was the Limited in Magnetite Grey Metallic. Its standard equipment list is long, which includes symmetrical all-wheel drive, eyesight driver assist technology, x-mode with Hill Descent Control, 8.7-inch ground clearance, adaptive cruise control, roof rails, power mirror and locks, Blind Spot detection with lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert, keyless access, rear door sunshades and leather seats.

Options included Harman Kardon premium audio system with CD player, moonroof, Sirius/XM, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Starlink cloud apps.

The Ascent is a big vehicle done right.
The interior has lots to offer.

The as-tested-price for Ascent was $42,920. That’s not cheap, but the Touring is even more expensive. Still, look at the price tags on the competition and Subaru is right in the ball game. I’d like to see a V6 but this 27 miles per gallon on the highway four-banger allows for long stretches without fillips. I’d be surprised if this isn’t a hit for Subaru. The company got it right.

cross@alldaytech.com